In the last few weeks, there has been much publicity about a well-known actor who has said some pretty bizarre things to the media. As well, his behaviour has been quite outrageous. Of course, everyone in the entertainment media is talking about it (it makes great copy!) and theorizing about why he is acting the way he is.

The performer was even asked directly is he was bi-polar, something he adamantly denied.  Nevertheless, he gives the appearance of being somewhat out of control, and of being "off," because of some of his outlandish statements.

Well, his recent behaviour brought to my mind the play, Hamlet, where Hamlet pretends to be mad, in order to catch some ne're-do-wells who are plotting on his life. He pretends to be out of his mind, then, for a purpose. And everyone around him is speculating: is he truly out-of-it, or merely pretending. This is where we get the common axiom: "method to his madness."

It is common to the human experience to speculate about other people's motivations, and cause of actions. Sometimes we can call it just plain gossip, other times we elevate it to the name of clinical psychology, and spend thousands of research dollars on it. The point is, we all want to know why other people tick the way they do.

When someone acts a bit strange, this gives us fodder to chew on, and something to talk about. I think we enjoy it, as a public, this speculation. It is the basis of story: understanding character and motivation.  Collectively, we can go "ooh" and "ahh"  at the appropriate times.

And the actor in the spotlight now fills a need for us. Does he know what he is doing? Is he pulling a Hamlet? Only he, in his heart, knows for sure. Can "pulling a Hamlet" go too far, and start to seem real? We see at the end of Hamlet that he performs actions that he never would have at the beginning of the play. It seems it is easy to pretend to be something long enough, that you actually become it.

So, when you are teaching Hamlet to your class, or whatever other play you are working on, bring in the news of the day .... the stuff the kids will  know about. And relate to this stuff they don't know about ... Make them make the connection.

10/7/2011 08:40:35 am

If you find Shakespeare engaging, watch the trailer for the new film Anonymous. It's going to be a good watch!

10/15/2011 04:17:12 pm

Thank you, Charlie. That movie does look very interesting! I definitely want to see it. Thanks for the comment.


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    An educator with a passion for making connections between literature and the real lives of students.